Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Needle This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


It is summer. The sun slips gold over everything, polishing it with heat, yet Lydia wears a long-sleeved NYU sweatshirt. This puzzles me.

"Aren't you hot?" I ask. "It's, like, 80 degrees." The weight of my own clothing is killing me, and I'm in shorts and a T-shirt.

"No," she replies, looking down. She examines her knuckles, and I try to think of something else to say. We sit awkwardly on my porch swing and feel the silence four years of separation has created.

"So, what kind of music do you like?" This is a lame, lame guy-attempt at conversation. Lydia has endured so many tragedies, and I can't think of anything else to say. I am an idiot. Certifiable.

"Chopin," she replies simply, and I nod, not sure where to go from here. I don't know much about Chopin. "You, Kevin?" she asks as an afterthought.

"Um, I like lotsa stuff. Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana." None of these names seem to register with her.

"Oh," she says. You used to be best friends, I remind myself. Find common ground, common ground.

"So, do you remember Miss Whiting?" Miss Whiting was our homeroom teacher in eighth grade, the only class we had together that year. That year Lydia's mom died and she and her dad moved up to New York.

"Yeah, she's the one who told me when my mom died. She pulled me aside one day and told me about the accident." Her striking white-blonde hair tumbles in front of her pale face as she looks down at her fingers again. I am stupid, stupid, stupid. Way to hit a nerve, I tell myself.

"I'm sorry to bring that up again," I say.

"It's okay," she says, shrugging. "I'm used to missing my mother. It was much harder when my dad first moved us to the city, but it's better now."

"And why did you guys move way up there?"

"My dad was an artist. There are more galleries and stuff in the city."

"Did he ever get to be, I don't know, famous or anything?" My lack of knowledge, both about her and the art world, is becoming embarrassing. Lydia half-smiles.

"Famous? No. We lived on what he made doing tattoos, actually. My dad was crazy." I'm not sure whether she means clinically insane or just eccentric.

"How did ..." and then I catch myself. I am not supposed to be asking her about this stuff. A red warning light flashes in my brain: new topic, new topic.

"Do you want to know how he died? Didn't they tell you?"

"My parents didn't tell me much," I say. "They just told me you were coming home to live with your grandmother."

"He - wait, didn't you read about it? He killed himself. He was crazy. An absolute mental case. He pretty much lost it after my mom's accident." God, she's beautiful, I find myself thinking. Stop it, stop it, you're not here to kiss her.

"Wow."

"Yeah. Why do you think my grandmother's sending me to therapy as soon as I'm unpacked? These last four years were insanity."

"I'm sorry."

She stands up, never meeting my eyes, and carefully steps off the porch.

"He thought I was an angel."

"You are," I say without thinking.

"No, a real one." I stand up and follow her as she picks her way through the landscaping into the backyard.

"Huh?"

"Never mind." Suddenly I remember how I used to write to her, and I hesitate.

"Did you ever get my letters?"

"You mean the ones proclaiming your 'undying love'?"

I flush red; I can feel it. "I was only thirteen. What did I know about being subtle?"

"Enough not to be," she says, surprising me. "You were the only one who wrote to me after we moved. I used to hide under the bed and read them over and over late at night with my Fisher-Price flashlight. I pretended you really loved me." She doesn't look at me, which leads me to think she's embarrassed or something.

"I did. Lydia, we were best friends. You lived right next door, remember? I had a crush on you for, like, three years."

"Nobody really loved me ever, in my whole life. Not even you."

"Why would you say something like that?"

She selects a swing and I take the one next to her. "Because. Because I'm not really an angel. My father thought I was an angel, but I'm not."

"You're an angel to me," I say, toeing the sand under the swing. She's confusing me.

"No, a real angel. He thought I was a real angel." Tears tinge her voice.

"Calm down; calm down. What's wrong?" I put a hand on her shoulder, feeling only sharp bone, but she shrugs it away.

"Nothing. I'm fine." She looks up fiercely, swiping at the tears tumbling down her cheeks.

"I missed you," I say, finally - saying what I've been wanting to say. "Why didn't you ever write back?"

"Because I couldn't get out of the house. I never left. Don't you understand? He never once let me out. Never. In four years, Kevin. Four years. And when you stopped writing to me, I was all by myself "

"Lydia, come on. I mean, why didn't you do something? Couldn't you call someone? Didn't you have other relatives?"

"When Mom died, it was just the two of us. There was my mom's mother, but she didn't want anything to do with my dad. She was still upset. Plus we didn't have a phone or anything. I mean, for one thing, it cost money. For another, it was a distraction my dad didn't want when he was working. He did his stupid body art or whatever in the living room and painted and sculpted in his bedroom. He was always busy."

"So, what did you do? How did you live?" My jaw slackens so I can hardly speak.

"I lived in the apartment and that's all. My dad worked at home, so it's not like I ever had the chance to get out. Even when he left the house to get food or something, he locked all the doors from the outside."

"Didn't you go to school or anything?" My mind is spinning too fast to grasp what I want to say.

"He brought home books from the library for me, and there was always plenty of music around - records and stuff. He was a huge fan of classical music. We had a piano, and I taught myself to play."

Finally, I ask the question my mind has been stumbling over. "Why? Why didn't he let you out?"

"He thought I would fly away." She says so softly I can barely hear her, but it ripples through my head like an earthquake.

"Lydia? Are you serious?" Of course I know she is serious. She is sobbing by this point, soaking the ends of her hair. I find her hand and hold it. I don't know what to do. It's not as though I've had any experience in these types of situations. I can't help but think how beautiful she is. So this is why I adored her so much back then. I know I'm an idiot for thinking this at such a time.

"Do you want proof, Kevin? Do you?" Angrily, she looks me square in the eye, blinking back tears. She isn't angry at me, but she is certainly angry about something. I stammer a word or two, but she interrupts me.

"Remember when we used to sit in your basement?" she says suddenly.

"Yeah," I say.

"Can we go down there again?"

"Yeah, sure," I tell her, completely bewildered. I am still holding her hand so I lead her in through the garage and down the steps, never letting go. Memories wash over me - this was where we first kissed. Or, really, it was our only kiss, the night before she moved away. But I have to stop thinking about this stuff.

"Remember the last time we were down here?" she whispers, sitting on the couch as though it is somehow fragile - or maybe as though she is fragile. She is fragile.

"Of course, I do," I reply as I sit next to her.

"Kevin, why did you stop writing to me?"

"I thought you didn't want to hear from me anymore."

"He wouldn't let me leave ..." With fresh sobs, she collapses on my shoulder. I am wearing my Nirvana T-shirt, and I can feel her tears soak through after a few seconds. I can't think of a single thing to say, as usual.

"Do you want to see them?" she whispers, her voice muffled by my shoulder. I can't imagine what she means.

"What?"

"I love you," she says.

"I love you too," I manage to utter in shock. She turns around so her back is facing me.

"Promise not to tell," she says, her voice weak from crying. "Go ahead. Look. Look what he did."

"Where?" My confusion is embarrassingly thick. She grasps the bottom of her heavy sweatshirt, lifts it up past her shoulder blades, and I inhale sharply.

There, in deep blue ink, is a pair of wings, beautifully tattooed, spreading across her entire milky-white back, and at last I realize what she's been saying:

"Angel wings."

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





Join the Discussion


This article has 4 comments. Post your own!

unwanted ninja said...
Aug. 22, 2011 at 8:54 am:
Really really good loved it soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much :)
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
iamonecoolradiator said...
Aug. 22, 2011 at 3:37 am:
That was actually amazing! If you ever have time please read over some of my work :D
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
webweaver96 said...
Aug. 21, 2011 at 8:35 am:
I love this! It's so...WOW! Will you do a sequel?
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
musicprincess This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 20, 2011 at 8:44 am:
Wow, this is really good :D
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Site Feedback